Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

stannis the mannis Archive

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9

June 2015

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Ours is the Fury: #StandWithStannis

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

It’s been a rough twenty four hours to be a supporter of Stannis Baratheon, the One True King of Westeros. Ever since episode nine aired, I’ve been fielding questions as to how I feel about the sacrifice of Shireen Baratheon. Anger is the appropriate emotion, though not at Stannis, but rather at David Benioff and D.B. Weiss for completely destroying one of the best characters in A Song of Ice and Fire.

Ever since his introduction in season two, Game of Thrones has gone to great lengths to denigrate Stannis, portraying him as a puppet of Melisandre and a religious fanatic. The truth is, Stannis cares very little about the Lord of Light in the books. Selyse is the true believer in the Red God and Stannis appears to support R’hllor mostly because it’s just about the only thing he has going for him in A Clash of Kings.

Which one might consider disingenuous until you consider that this very train of thought goes against the stubborn, rigid description of the character. Now, it’s not just D&D who feel that Stannis is a cold, brooding, and arrogant individual. Most of the characters in both the books and the series hold this opinion of Stannis.

Except the opposite grows to be true. The Stannis we see in A Dance With Dragons is not the Stannis we were introduced to in ACOK. This Stannis cares little of birthrights and knows that he must save the realm to win the throne and not the other way around.

I direct your attention to this image, courtesy of “The Rains of Castamere” Facebook page.

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This is the Stannis that earned the title of “The Mannis.” Book and show fans have long been divided with regard to the middle Baratheon son for good reason. Show Stannis has little in the way of honor or integrity. Why? Who knows?

I thought that we might have turned the page with Stannis’ horrible depiction (I won’t say portrayal since Stephen Dillane is excellent) in the show with last season’s finale. When Stannis saved the Wall, it seemed like the show finally understood the vale of the One True King. I even wrote an article about it.

Unfortunately, that was short lived. We saw little development of the Jon/Stannis relationship, which is one of the best aspects of ADWD. Instead, the show returned to previous depictions of Stannis as a demanding fool with no political savvy, relying on Davos’ word to convince the viewer that this guy isn’t a complete religious narcissist. It’s as if The Battle of Castle Black never happened. Maybe that’s why he didn’t show up at the end of “The Watchers on the Wall.”

I now direct your attention to this quote from Theon’s sample chapter from The Winds of Winter, which is from a conversation Stannis had with Ser Justin Massey.

The knight hesitated.  “Your Grace, if you are dead — ”
” — you will avenge my death, and seat my daughter on the Iron Throne.  Or die in the attempt.”

Does this look like a man who would burn his own daughter? Certainly not. In the books, Shireen, Selsye, and Melisandre remain at the Wall. It’s been long assumed that Melisandre will try to sacrifice her and the show practically confirmed that.

Why Stannis needed to be involved is beyond me. It completely ruined the character for show viewers and that’s a shame. What’s an even bigger shame is that Stannis fans now have to once again become Stannis apologists.

While the show and the books have always been separate entities, it’s clear that Stannis has been a victim of this more so than any other character. I’m not sure any book fans will be able to convince show only viewers that Stannis isn’t a completely horrible person. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try.

While “Hardhome” went a long way in salavaging the season, it doesn’t change the fact that season five has largely been a complete disaster. When it’s not boring, it’s completely nonsensical (not to suggest that the two are mutually exclusive). Stannis isn’t the only character who’s been made to suffer the indignity of actions unbefitting to his character. There’s also Littlefinger, but at least he didn’t burn his daughter.

I urge people to remember that last episode featured actions committed not by Stannis, but rather by the showrunners who don’t understand the character. I will continue to love Stannis. You should too.

#StandWithStannis

Also, Courting Mrs. McCarthy is out today! 

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Sunday

19

April 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 2

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

This recap features analysis from a devoted book fan. Spoilers will largely be kept to comparisons between the show and the books within the episodes themselves, but if you hate spoilers you should probably not read these articles. I encourage you to subscribe so you never miss a recap. Thank you for reading. 

While I’ve generally been completely fine with the deviations from the books, this episode featured two that I thought were mistakes. Since the beginning, Jon and Cersei have been two of the show’s favorite characters. This generally means that deviations will work to these characters’ benefit as much of what needs to be cut from the books will come at the expensive of a different character.

Which made the ten seconds the show gave to the election for Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch puzzling. This is a big deal in the books and it should be a big deal in the show as well. Yet for whatever reason, the show gave it just about as much time as Brienne’s dinner with Podrick.

Naturally the election is far more complex in the books. It’s worth noting that Lord Janos Slynt, not Ser Alliser Thorne, was the bad guy candidate in the books. It was also heavily implied that Jon would have been executed if Slynt were elected.

The show did allow Samwell to play a part in the election, though it stripped him of his elaborate plan inspired by Maester Aemon. In the books, Samwell convinces Denys Mallister, commander of the Shadow Tower, and Cottor Pyke, commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, to drop out of the race and support Jon because neither alone would have the backings to beat Slynt. This House of Cards style manipulation was reduced to a simple heartfelt speech in the show.

Samwell has never been a favorite of mine and the scheme would’ve been too elaborate for the show to pull off. The only problem with the election itself was that I don’t really think a convincing argument was made for picking Jon over Ser Alliser. Janos Slynt probably should have still be the candidate as he’s not an experienced Brother who didn’t play a pivotal role in the defense of Castle Black.

The more important problem was the neglect of Stannis’ offer to legitimize Jon. This is also a big deal. Jon could avenge his father, brothers, sister(s), and fulfill a lifelong desire to truly become a Stark with one word. He doesn’t and ultimately, we know why, but the show decides to scoot right by this without giving it the proper attention it deserves.

Honor is a big theme in Game of Thrones. Characters like Ned and Robb pay heavy prices for choosing honorable decisions. Cersei and Littlefinger get ahead by ignoring it. It shouldn’t be surprising that Jon chose to stay true to his vows, but we missed out on the grappling that should have occurred. This would have been a great opportunity to have another heart to heart with Maester Aemon about duty and family.

The pacing of the Wall storyline kind of explains this. The election happened in A Storm of Swords and I don’t think lingering much longer would have been a good idea and other storylines even at the Wall are well into A Dance with Dragons. Problem was that it was really only mentioned in passing last episode. The seed for this could have been planted last episode, possibly instead of burning Mance, which didn’t need to happen this early.

The other deviation in this episode that really bugged me was with Cersei and Kevan. In the books, Cersei offers Kevan the position of Hand of the King, which he says he will only accept if Cersei also makes him Regent and goes back to Casterly Rock. This offer also happened in a private conversation rather than during a Small Council Session. There is no “Master of War” in the books and its presence in the show is strange, but not particularly important.

It goes against the Lannister commitment to family to have Kevan call out his niece in front of the Lord of a rival House, though the show has made no effort to make Mace Tyrell look like any threat at all. Kevan isn’t a character that the show, or the books for that matter, have paid much attention to, but he is a Lannister and Lannister’s don’t pull that kind of nonsense. As the person Tywin trusted most, he should have known better. The seeds for Cersei’s fall have been planted, but in a weird way.

The Daenerys stuff is pretty straight forward, though sort of boring. I like the Sons of the Harpy plotline as a war with Yunkai would be difficult to pull off in the show given Dany’s resources and allotted screen time. In the books, Dany has a relatively large force behind her, but the show has reduced this significantly to merely her Unsullied, the Second Sons, and Ser Grandfather.

I liked the rest of the episode. It’s pretty clear (and disturbing) what Littlefinger is planning to do with Sansa. Brienne is following her because she has nothing else to do. Roose and Ramsay are having fun in Winterfell with Reek being Reek.

At first, I disliked having Jaqen H’ghar take the place of the Kindly Man in the House of Black and White, but it makes sense. That storyline is weird and having a familiar face around makes it (sort of) less weird. He and Arya are great together too.

It was nice to see Bronn, who isn’t shown in the books after his departure prior to Tyrion’s trial (though we hear about plenty of amusing Bronn antics). Jaime’s plan seems farfetched, but he and Bronn have great chemistry. The Dorne stuff isn’t an interesting as I’d hoped, but that was true of them at this point in the books as well.

That’s it for this week. If you enjoyed this recap, I encourage you to check out my other GOT/ASOIAF related articles.

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Sunday

12

April 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 1

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

This recap features analysis from a devoted book fan. Spoilers will largely be kept to comparisons between the show and the books within the episodes themselves, but if you hate spoilers you should probably not read these articles. I encourage you to subscribe so you never miss a recap. Thank you for reading. 

For all the talk of how different this season would be from the books, the episode got off to a start that pretty much paid homage to A Feast for Crows. One of AFFC’s strongest attributes is the intimate look it gives the reader into Cersei’s thoughts/backstory, as it’s the first book to feature her as a POV character. The flashback with Maggy the Frog is certainly foretelling of things to come for the Queen Regent.

This episode largely played catch-up, setting up the plots for the season. GOT premieres and finales are tricky as they generally involve the entire cast, which makes screen time problematic. Balance wasn’t much of a problem as the episode allotted a fair amount of time to just about everyone.

I particularly enjoyed the Varys/Tyrion scenes. Varys disappears from the tail end of A Storm of Swords all the way until the epilogue of A Dance With Dragons and it would have been a waste for the show to abandon him for that length of time. My mouth did salivate a bit at the thought of future Varys/Daenerys scenes.

I haven’t written at all about my thoughts on scrapping (f)Aegon from the show, largely because I approve of it. The last thing this show needs is more characters and this season will already introduce Dorne and the rest of House Martell. Condensing Tyrion’s long and problematic voyage to Dany seems to be in the best interest of the show.

The Castle Black plotline also seems to be accelerating rather rapidly. Parts of it aren’t caught up to A Storm of Swords while others are well into A Dance With Dragons. By the time Mance was “burned alive” in the books, Jon had already been elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. That plot was hinted at, but played a backseat role to Stannis’ need for more troops. I did find it odd that the idea of legitimizing Jon Snow wasn’t brought up, though I imagine that’s coming fairly soon.

Like many, I’ve criticized the show’s handling of Stannis, who’s affectionately known as Stannis the Mannis to many. Stannis and Jon develop a mutual respect for each other in ADWD that makes the often quite boring Wall chapters far more enjoyable in the books. The potential bromance will undoubtedly be called in question after Jon mercy killed Mance, though it’s unclear whether the show will follow the books with what happens to The King Beyond the Wall.

The Littlefinger scheming is also very interesting and so different from the books that comparing the two almost seems silly. I sort of gathered that they could be heading to Essos, which makes me wonder if Littlefinger will head to the Braavos to consult with the Iron Bank or try to throw in with Dany. I really liked the way that Sansa has grown as a character, treating him like more of an equal than a protector.

Dany’s plotline was mostly like the books, though I detest the show’s love affair with Grey Worm, who isn’t really all that interesting in the books. A certain large eunuch by the name of Strong Belwas would have been useful when the fighting pits were brought up. I can’t be the only book fan who thought of nothing but him during those scenes.

The pacing of the King’s Landing plotline was pretty flawless. The show took its time setting up the inevitable Cersei/Jaime conflict and the reintroduction of Kevan and Lancel Lannister without biting off more than it could chew. I also like that it kept the Mountain/Qyburn stuff for another episode, though I’m sure viewers are wondering what is up with Frakenstrong.

It remains to be seen what Brienne is going to do with herself, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see her involved with Sansa in some way if for any other reason than she doesn’t appear to have anything else to do. This was a strong opening episode that did everything it needed to do to set up the season. The changes were welcomed as they all appear to work toward translating the often uneven plot progressions of AFFC/ADWD to television. As a fairly hardcore fan of the books, I didn’t have a problem with any of it, though I am concerned that the show will try to villainize Stannis, who will soon turn his full attention to the Bolton’s, who are the actual bad guys in the North. Well, them and the White Walkers.

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Saturday

11

April 2015

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Varys and the Importance of Hedging Your Bets

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

This article contains spoilers for all five books. Though the upcoming season will deviate quite a bit from the books, there are some spoilers that could impact your enjoyment of the show if you hate spoilers. Proceed with caution. Also, I’ll be doing Game of Thrones recaps every Monday that focus on the relationship between the books and the shows so please subscribe if you are interested.

 While Varys is known as Game of Thrones’ most notorious schemer, both to the characters and the audience (Littlefinger is more trusted by the former than the latter), he loses a bit of his mystique by the epilogue of A Dance with Dragons, where he reveals his plans to a dying Kevan Lannister. I don’t mean to suggest that he’s not interesting anymore, but seeing his plan out in the open puts him a bit behind other manipulators such as Littlefinger, Olenna Redwyne, Marwyn, Doran Martell, and Mance Rayder in terms of intrigue. We know Varys’ plan. We don’t really know any of theirs.

With the knowledge that Varys wants to put (f)Aegon on the throne along with his decision to off Kevan and Pycelle in order to prevent them for cleaning Cersei’s mess, we can pretty much piece together why he disappeared after A Storm of Swords. Varys needed to create chaos in King’s Landing. Having accomplished that, sticking around only served to put him at unnecessary risk. Cersei would presumably rely on him or blame him for Tywin’s death/Tyrion’s escape, which put him in the position of either having to help Cersei at the cost of his own agenda or risk his life for not doing so.

There is one decision that doesn’t make much sense if Varys’ plan is to put Aegon and not Daenerys’ on the throne. Why send Ser Barristan to Dany if Aegon is the real objective? It seems to serve no purpose other than to make a potential enemy stronger.

Now the whole Barristan to Dany story isn’t 100% clear, but we know that Varys’ planted his dismissal in Cersei’s mind and then Illyrio Mopantis, Varys’ BFF, took care of getting Ser Grandfather, along with Strong Belwas, to Qarth to take Dany back to Pentos, which of course ended up not working at all. If Barristan knows that Varys has any involvement, he’s kept quiet. Chances are, he doesn’t know that Varys was behind all of this.

Why am I sure of that? In A Storm of Swords, Stannis tells Davos, “Ser Barristan once told me that King Aerys’ rot began with Varys” (Davos IV). Pretty damning right? There’s also the fact that Barristan knows that Ser Jorah is spying on Dany for Varys, adding another element of distrust. It’s hard to believe that Barristan, bold as he may be, would get involved in any plan spearheaded by the eunuch. That doesn’t mean that Varys doesn’t see value in having Barristan in the picture.

We know that Barristan came up with the idea to go to Dany on his own. It’s not really clear whether Illyrio found him in Pentos or if it was the other way around, but we do know that Barristan agreed to disguise himself as Arstan Whitebeard, a shady thing for a man of honor to do.

His logic for doing so is also kind of suspicious. Barristan claims that he adopted a pseudonym because Ser Jorah was spying on her for Varys and this sort of adds up. Though Jorah had stopped spying by A Storm of Swords, Ser Barristan wouldn’t have known this and probably would have been mistrustful of double agents, whether it be Varys or Jorah. Jorah was also pretty obnoxious to him for their entire boat ride. It seems as though the real reason could be that Illyrio and Varys viewed Jorah as expendable at that point and that they were better off without him and his weird lust for Dany, though Barristan could have been acting on his own accord. 

Which explains how they got Ser Barristan there, but it doesn’t really explain why. The answer to that is simple. I don’t think Barristan would’ve believed that Aegon was really Aegon, since there would have been no way of explaining that without involving Varys, who he doesn’t trust. The only way to get value out of the old knight was to help him get to a destination he was already determined to go to anyway.

The problem is that sending Barristan to Dany only strengthens her, which could become problematic for Varys when the time came to make moves with Aegon. It would be a shame for Aegon and the Golden Company to take the Iron Throne in the midst of all the chaos, only to have Dany, her dragons, and her Unsullied arrive to take it away. So why would Varys strengthen a potential enemy?

Varys, possibly more than anyone else, knows that plans go wrong all the time and there’s only so much he can do about it. There’s about a hundred different things that could go wrong with having two hotheaded Targaryen children running around Essos over the course of a few years. Angry Dothraki, angry stonemen, angry Qarth warlocks, slavers, and that’s only people problems. There’s ships sinking, pale mare, starvation, and plenty of other natural factors that Varys can’t do anything about.

What he can do is hedge his bets. In a perfect world, Varys has Aegon on the throne. Maybe he’s married to Dany, but one would think that a marriage to one of the great houses would a better idea, which doesn’t leave room for Dany at all. But that’s a perfect world and not one Varys lives in.

We’ve seen Varys forced to alter his plans before. He didn’t want the War of the Five Kings to happen at all and he would’ve had to clear out of King’s Landing completely if Stannis had taken the thrones. Varys has shown his prowess at gathering intelligence and long term planning, but he isn’t infallible.

Dany might be a problem for him eventually or she might be his only shot if something happens to Aegon, which at this point is a pretty realistic possibility. With that in mind, having a renowned knight like Ser Barristan protecting her makes perfect sense. The game of thrones is a gamble and problems will always arise. Having two Targaryens is better than one, for now at least.

 

 

 

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Sunday

1

February 2015

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Game of Thrones IMAX Proves Some Free Things Are Worth Paying For

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

Last night I went to see Game of Thrones in IMAX. The allure of seeing the Battle of Castle Black on big screen was enough to get me to shell out money to pay for something I could not only watch for free, but have already watched for free. This being the first time that a TV show was shown in theaters also had some appeal as a fan of popular culture.

The biggest surprise of the night didn’t come from the episodes, naturally, but the theatre attendance. The theatre was at around 75% capacity. Granted, it was a Saturday night, but the attendance wasn’t noticeably smaller than the crowd that was at the showing of The Hobbit I attended (coincidentally in the same theatre in that cinema). Game of Thrones is a worldwide phenomenon and clearly more than the die hards showed up. There weren’t many people sporting GOT attire, but I did see one Hodor shirt. I probably would have left if there weren’t any.

The episodes translated beautifully to the big screen. The battle looked like any battle you’d see in any epic fantasy, maybe even better with emphasis on actual people instead of CGI. I spent most of my first viewing of the episode counting the differences between it and the battle shown in A Storm of Swords and found that the IMAX was so aesthetically overpowering that I could just sit back and enjoy the show.

“The Children” fits well as a companion to “The Watchers on the Wall” for the big screen. The decision to start the episode at the Wall when the previous episode was nothing but Wall proved intelligent as movie goers were treated to the complete narrative, briefly interrupted for a “previously on,” and the credits for a second time. The episode is less about battles and more about plot resolution, but there’s enough in here to justify its presence on the big screen.

The trailer at the end was a nice treat. I’m glad I didn’t watch the leaked version before seeing it in theatres as it was beautiful to watch on IMAX (particularly Peter Dinklage’s new goatee). As some characters are completely caught up on the books (though some are not entirely through A Storm of Swords), this coming season will have plenty of fresh material for book and show viewers alike. The days of “that didn’t happen in the books” may not be over, but they might get increasingly standard, as it becomes more the rule than the exception.

Was it worth it? It wasn’t cheap. The ticket was the standard cost of an IMAX film despite not being a film or anything new besides a few minutes of trailer. That doesn’t answer the question.

Yes.

It was fun. That’s the point isn’t it? The battle was beautiful. Brienne fighting the Hound was luscious. Hodor hodoring through crisp sound was marvelous. IMAX makes everything better and that was certainly the case here.

I don’t think this has widespread ramifications for the TV to big screen debate that’s sprouted up as a result of this event. Analysts are quick to judge the viability of TV on the big screen as this is the first time its been done. The fact that many viewers watch the show on a computer or tablet is certainly a relevant point. “It’s not TV, it’s HBO” took on a whole new meaning, but I wouldn’t call this a game changer just yet.

This worked for two reasons. First, Game of Thrones is huge. Big enough to justify the hype. The only other show with the fanbase to make something like this work is Downton Abbey. I’d probably pay to see that in theatres too.

Second, these two episodes worked perfectly in conjunction for something like this. Without the battle centric “The Watchers on the Wall,” it wouldn’t have worked. The narrative jumping around as it does normally would’ve made it feel much more like a TV show than a movie. Having just The Wall made it feel just like a movie.

The only other season of Game of Thrones that could’ve pulled it off was season two with “Blackwater” and “Valar Morghulis.” I don’t doubt that HBO will want to try this again with season five. Whether or not that’s a good idea remains to be seen, but without a battle centric episode, it seems like a bit of a reach.

It was a unique experience. I wouldn’t flock to the theater to see TV in more or less any other instance, but as an ASOIAF fanatic, I felt obliged to indulge. It could’ve used more Stannis, but all in all it’s worth seeing if you’re a big fan of the show.

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